Friday, May 6, 2011

Wind, wind & wind across Green Roofs in Arid Areas

The central states along the Mississippi have been receiving more than their fair share of rain recently as evidenced by the US Army Corps of Engineers blasting of levees to alleviate flooding.
MetroVerde Florida Green Roof, Breaking Ground

Here in Jacksonville we've had little if any rainfall for weeks now.  The saying April showers brings May flowers does not hold true for the geographic climate here.  As weather fronts push down and across the US they loose momentum and dissipate just before reaching Jacksonville.  All the dry weather is rough on green roof plants.

However, being situated on the Atlantic Ocean we are constantly exposed to high winds.  When the weather fronts come through they drop all their moisture west of Jacksonville typically but retain enough wind turbulence to stress unprotected green roof plants.

Up on the Breaking Ground Green Roof for most of yesterday I watched in amazement at the amount of water the dry winds were stealing from the plants as breezes whipped across the flat roof at 4 or 5 meters per second.

Of course the CAM plants were fine and this is why we suggest planting a belt of CAM plants around unprotected green roof perimeters.  CAM plants generally keep their stomata closed during the day.

C4 plants like the Poaceae hold their own, as long as they are established.  The corn, lemon grass and native grasses don't seem to mind the desiccating winds though I am sure after time they too would suffer without some rainfall.  I love the wave action native grasses produce in the wind.

The Asteraceae too do well, again as long as they are established and again, most are considered C4 photosynthesis possessing plants.

But the C3 plants can dry out so quickly.

Because we are doing an install I water the plants to help them settle into their new home.

Yesterday the wind was so drying and strong I could hold the hose to where the stream of water was flowing vertically up and evaporating or being stolen by the wind before the droplets could ever make it back down to the plants.

Watching the C3 plant leaves move in the wind I could see the same occurrence happening, water being quickly vaporized out of the leaves just as the droplets from the hose where also 'gone with the wind'.

Sitting there with the hose I witnessed some of the more tender vegetables quickly wilt even with the hose  water directed at their roots.  The plants vascular system could not keep up with the wind induced evaporation of leaf moisture.

Without water in the leaves plants can not conduct photosynthesis.  Without photosynthesis plants die,

Wind impacts are so significant across green roofs.

In my opinion wind exposure is, with light, availability the most important consideration for green roof design.

We've posted numerous articles here on how to use CAM plants as wind breaks.  Understanding wind impacts on green roofs is critical for long term green roof design success.

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